Who buried ‘The Brunei Times’?

Image result for the brunei times closure

This was back on July 1, 2010 when The Brunei Times introduced a compact version and I was so kiasu that I headed to The Brunei Times office to grab the first copy that entered the office. Photo courtesy of Rano360.com.

More bad news for press freedom in Southeast Asia.


THE Brunei Times
, the second-largest publication in Brunei’s small and heavily censored media landscape, has been shut down. The paper was issued an official order to “cease publication and operations on 7 November” just three days prior, leaving 110 employees jobless in face of an economy analysts have describedas “spluttering.

This is a significant loss to journalism in a nation ranked 155th in the world for press freedom, compared to Thailand’s ranking of 136, and Myanmar’s ranking of 143.


The last issue of The Brunei Times, which has been publishing since mid-2006, contained an announcement stating the closure was due to “business issues, reporting and journalistic standards that should meet the mark set, and also issues relating to business sustainability.”


However, unsatisfied Bruneians on social media are pointing to a different tale.

An ex-writer for The Brunei Times reported in Pakistani news that the real motive behind the shutdown was a complaint filed by the Saudi Embassy, after The Brunei Times published quotes from an unnamed source in a story published on 26 October. The article covered the increase in Hajj and Umra visa fees for Bruneian residents, with the unnamed embassy spokesperson describing the hike as a result of economic downturn from falling oil prices (click here to view a text archive of the now deleted article).

Although an apology was issued on 4 November, there are angry suggestions circulating on social media that the complaint provided the final incentive for government to shut down the publication, which often toed the line of Bruneian censorship standards — even though they may have annoyed authorities from time-to-time.

According to the report, the anonymous ex-employee source stated, “The government had been angry with the paper for quite sometime for its work but the Saudi Embassy story proved to be the final straw.”

Students and researchers are also mourning the loss of the newspaper, which provides an invaluable source of information on Brunei spanning the last ten years.

In a country where there is virtually no criticism of government and where voices are worn weary under the threat of harsh and repressive legislation, we may very well never know what, or more darkly who, buried The Brunei Times. In an age of wavering press freedom in Southeast Asia, this is deeply troubling, solemn news.

New Mandala

Wed, 9 November 2016










‘The Brunei Times’ suddenly closes after criticising Saudi Arabia’s Mecca visa price-hike

The unexpected announcement followed an article that suggested Saudi Arabia increased visa prices because of economic troubles


Photo: Courtesy of Rasidah HAB


A LEADING  newspaper has allegedly been ordered to close for linking the Saudi government’s latest visa price rises to its “economic problems”.

The Brunei Times, based in the tiny country, which borders Malaysia, unexpectedly announced its closure of all operations from Tuesday in a front-page editorial.

It followed an article published on 26 October, which reportedly suggested that economic problems in Saudi were the reason for a hike in the price of visas for the Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages to Mecca.

According to a journalist claiming to be an ex-Brunei Times reporter, it quoted an anonymous official from the Saudi embassy who was said to have been “unauthorised to speak” to the press.

The daily paper apologised for the article on its website on Friday but refused to comment on claims surrounding its mysterious shut-down.

The statement read: “The Brunei Times is ceasing media and publication operations with effect from 8 November, 2016.

It also thanked the Brunei government for “bearing with us” and “extending the licence” despite “issues” surrounding the paper.

The “board of directors” also thanked editorial, management and operational staff’s “dedication, zeal, enthusiasm and tremendous effort they have put into their work at all levels over the years”.

The 10-year-old paper has also shut its Twitter and Facebook accounts.

A spokesman for the publication, which said 110 people were employed there, referred a Reuters reporter to its statement when asked about the reason for its closure.

Brunei, which has a population of around 420,000, is home to predominantly Sunnis Muslims.

The Saudi government recently increased visa charges for anyone completing the Hajj to approximately £410, up from around £75.

Muslims are expected to make the pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their lifetime.

Economic troubles in Saudi Arabia have been well documented with oil prices falling as low as £21 a barrel in February.

The Independent

Wed, 9 November 2016




Saudi news report on Bruneian with terror links untrue

A NEWS report about a Bruneian man arrested in Saudi Arabia over alleged terror links is not true, said the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).

The National Security Committee said yesterday that Jeddah-based newspaper Saudi Gazette has admitted to the error in its reporting and published a correction on its website on September 20.

In its editor’s note appended to an article titled “53 terror suspects arrested during Haj”, the Saudi Gazette said it had erroneously reported that one of the suspects was a Brunei national.

Saudi Gazette’s e-paper reported on September 18 that an unidentified Bruneian man was recently apprehended by security forces in Riyadh on suspicion of terrorism, claiming that a growing number of expatriates living in Saudi were falling prey to ISIS propaganda.

However, subsequent investigations by the governments of Brunei and Saudi confirmed that no Brunei citizen was arrested.

The statement issued by PMO added that the National Security Committee, together with other security agencies in the country, will continuously monitor any activities that pose a threat to national security. Brunei citizens and residents were also reminded to abide by the law and warned against taking part in any terrorist or criminal activities in the country or abroad.

The Brunei Times

Thu, 22 September 2016







Brunei gov’t yet to receive verified info on arrest of Bruneian man in Saudi

THE Brunei government has yet to receive information confirming a news report of a Bruneian man recently arrested in Saudi Arabia over alleged terror links, said the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).

In a press statement issued yesterday, PMO said its National Security Committee together with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade are working closely with the relevant authorities of Saudi Arabia to verify the authenticity of the news report.

A story that appeared on the Saudi Gazette website quoted unnamed sources claiming security forces have apprehended a Bruneian man in Riyadh on suspicion of terrorism.

The Jeddah-based English newspaper said the unidentified man was arrested last Saturday without resistance and is being investigated for his involvement in terror operations that took place in Saudi as well as connections or support for terrorist organisations.

However, the sultanate’s National Security Committee has not received any information to date confirming the news report.

The Brunei Embassy in Riyadh and the Consulate General in Jeddah did not report any involvement of registered Bruneian citizens in suspected terrorist activities, while the Ministry of Religious Affairs through its Haj Management Department confirmed no Bruneian pilgrims were involved.

Saudi Gazette did not state which terrorist organisation the accused Bruneian was affiliated with, but reported that a growing number of expatriates have joined ISIS in the past two years.

Its security sources said ISIS was focused on recruiting expatriates particularly those who have lived in Saudi Arabia over a long period, during which they acquired knowledge of the local towns and cities.

The Brunei Times

Saturday, 17 September 2016



Brunei citizen held in Riyadh for link with terror network


Mishal Al-Otaibi


THE Saudi security forces have arrested a man from Brunei Darussalam accused of terrorism.

He is the first man from this southeast Asian country to be apprehended on charges of terrorism.

The security sources did not identify the man but said he was arrested in Riyadh last Saturday without any resistance.

They said the accused is currently being investigated to verify his involvement in terror operations that took place in the Kingdom or if he had any connections with or had supported terrorist organizations in the country.

The sources noted that a growing number of expatriates had joined Daesh (the so-called IS) during the past two years.

They said Daesh was focusing on the recruitment of expatriates especially those who had lived in the Kingdom for long years during which they acquired a fair knowledge of Saudi towns and cities.

Saudi Gaette

Fri, 16 September 2016

Brunei citizen held in Riyadh for link with terror network

Meanwhile, Brunei government refuted it by saying that the accused is not listed in its immigration database.







The Bloody Tragedy of Masjid al-Haram – An Indonesian Eyewitness

Asmo Ismail

AFTER I read the article of the  tragedy with the title “Coming Mahdi, Mahdi Dead” in the magazine Muttaqin No. 12 Year XI in December 1979, where it was said that 4 of the 7 towers of Masjid al-Haram finally torn down, but unfortunately the article was  not explained when, what’s the  day, or the date when the towers were torn down.

To my knowledge until the 5th day of the tragedy of the Masjid al-Haram or until Saturday, 24 November, the towers were still standing upright. Only almost all parts of the towers there were patches of black scorch marks caused by explosions of Bazooka bullets, or chipped-chipped as a result of a bullet fired from a 12.7 tanks of the Askar.

Keep in mind, although the vandals were able to survive 15 days in the Masjid al-Haram, but practically since the 4th day, or Friday, November 23, 1979, they only survived in the underground part of the Grand Mosque, to surrender, December 4 1979. For since Thursday, November 22, 1979 at noon, the entire upper part of the mosque has been controlled by the royal army, after all the towers where they were highly strategic defense was struck out by tanks with a bazooka and 12.7.

Of course we so surprised, why the towers were remain upright even though showered with the bullets of Bazooka that can blast shook and broke the windows of buildings around the mosque. Because, in addition to construction of the tower was indeed strong and sturdy stone coated by marble, also the bullets of Bazooka  which were fired not metal, but plastics.

Because they had fled and survived in the basement of the mosque, then since Saturday, November 24, 1979, attacks with heavy weapons are no longer directed to the upper part of the mosque, but transferred to the lower part of the mosque.

Further follow my diary, during the first 6 days of the tragedy of Haram below:

Tuesday, 20 November 1979
This morning, I was with my friend, Br. Moch H.Mansyur Shawwal (late) of Dampit Malang, to perform Fajr (Subuh) prayer in the Masjid al-Haram, while the women of our party could not come to the mosque because oversleep. Even some of them there is an upset stomach.

Approximately 2 minutes before the Fajr prayer ended, on my left side a lot of people running toward the Ka’bah. After saying the greetings as a mark to close the prayer,   around the Ka’bah was sounded bitter dispute. Maybe the new people who came in with less warrior guards the Ka’bah. This dispute was ended by the dawn prayers echoed around the Ka’bah, repeatedly. It’s interspersed with the sound of automatic gunfire. By hearing the sound of gunfire was known only people who pray around the Ka’bah on running toward the mosque terraces.

Wird have not had time, in my heart saying: “… Why are you there was a shot in the Haram? … What is it?” I’m down near the Ka’bah. I saw they catched Imam who led Fajr prayers. On  the next day I heard that they killed the Imam on Tuesday it well: “Innalillahi wa inna ilaihi roji’un.” I kept walking towards the Ka’bah, by not considering the deafening sound of gunfire from all corners of the mosque. They’re still flowing toward the Ka’bah – there they obtained weapons. Around the Kaaba they chanted that I did not understand what he meant, as he held the gun. His white, stout, plainclothes (robe) red turban, belts of ammunition, weapons made in Russia: TRD, AKA, dn pistol knife or sword Arab Emirates typical. Some of them stormed into all parts of the mosque. The whole warriors in the mosque were arrested. Against shot.

They asked the pilgrims that still exist around the Kaaba follow them bertakbir. They asked the congregation to pray. They led him. They told the congregation sits. Finally, they asked the congregation listened to the speech ‘leader’ them from above sanctuary Fajr Prayers Imam earlier. Long-winded speech. They alternately. Some use the text, there is not. Of course I did not understand what they gembar rant. Because the shots could still be heard from the surrounding mosques. I want to know how the situation outside the mosque. But, … Astaghfirullah. All the doors of the mosque were closed. A remarkable thing. According to the statement, the mosque was never closed the whole time. To the extent that people are saying, Haram ‘not leaved the door.’ I can not get to the outside. I try to visit out of the window. But the window was too high. I tried to rise to the level one. Here, the situation is more tense. Quiet. Some of them patrolling with guns at the ready. I do not ignore them and continue to climb up to the top level Sa’i. From the window at the top level, I see the situation outside the mosque. Mediocre. Everything is running normally this morning. Those who patrol approached me, and asked me to go down, because it is very dangerous above. Moreover, the visit to the outside through the window. Because the Askar had surrounded the mosque.

I went down and sat down with the crowd while speculating … what happened? 07.00 breaking the flow of electricity, they do not dapatb continued his speech. 07.30 worshipers allowed Tawaf. 08.00 No person who offered a meal to me. “… Tuanmau eat? If you are willing to eat, come with me … “I told my friend:” Well, it seems we have really become prisoners. The proof we will diransum. Let us join him … ”

We follow ‘him’ up in the basement. Furthermore, we are told to follow other people running in this dark tunnel. Walking in this dark place, apparently my friend a little shock. “How do we want mmakan in this dark place?” he muttered. I replied: “Do not worry. What will we eat of the bread Arabic. Although the dark certainly looks as big …” It turns out that what is said ‘eat’ it is ‘a way out’. Us out through the basement. Outside, Askar block mosque. Chained the doors of the mosque from the outside. Helicopter circling above the mosque.

10.30 Gunshots began again. Out of nowhere. Given these gunshots, people Tawaf around the Ka’bah began to decrease. Gunshots increasingly crowded. 11:00 people who performing tawaf in the mosque has not seen again. Quiet. Shops around the mosque on the cap. Traffic around the mosque was stopped. People clustered around the mosque was also in retreat, go to their respective places. Starting at 15:30 there was a shoot-out that is very exciting and continues until 23:30 hours.

Wednesday, 21 November 1979
The shots began to aggressively again around 04.00 resulting in a fire at a storey building in front of Babul Malik. Fire engulfed the building finished. Belim fire until the afternoon can be controlled completely. 08.00 came directly operated tank reinforcements with his 12.7 shots directed to the mosque. 09.00 2 jet fighters came crossed the city several times. But they did not operate.
16:00 attacks of enhanced warriors. Askar tanks firing bullets were directed to the large size of the minarets. Great explosions shook buildings around the mosque. Seven towers, all had one. These towers still standing. Because instead of bullets fired metal, but plastic. This bullet when when not on target, will be turned off when it reaches its culmination point. Attacks on the towers lasted far into the night. Towards morning, dating troops armored tanks.

Thursday, 22 November 1979
Before Fajr, I woke up. Startled by the sound of a huge explosion streak. Attacks against the tower resumed. Massive attack lasted until 1300 hrs where warriors can break into the top of the mosque through Marwah. Furthermore, attacks are no longer focused to the top of the mosque. Because, at the top of this can already be controlled by warriors. The next cleanup is directed to the center or the underground mosque.

Friday. November 23, 1979
This morning came straight red berets troops and dressed in bulletproof. This forces directly to the theater of operations. Then there was heavy fighting in the holy mosque and strategic. Gunshots in the mosque sound like wind. Great rumble. Interspersed with the loud bang like thunder. Maghrib close battle subsided. Closing Isyak, some warriors milling cars with loudspeakers echoing an announcement. I thought ‘surely Askar announces his victory’. Once I asked the people there, it turns out the contents of the announcement is ‘curfew in Mecca.’

Saturday, 24 November 1979
This morning the streets of Mecca were still quiet because of curfew went into effect, Medium battle inside the mosque still continued throughout the night and this morning. 13:45 hours trucks dipaprkir in areas Suqullail pulled slightly away from the mosque. The tanks advanced closer to supporting the fighting in the basement of the mosque. Fierce fighting was closed by two powerful explosions that boomed and broke the windows that surround the mosque. There was a small fire in the mosque, about Babussalam. It happened around 16:00. 18.00 fire can be mastered after brought in no less than six units of fire brigade.

Saturday, 25 November 1979
I left Mecca for Medina with towers still standing on Haram mosque entirely.

Jalan Tembakan II / 49


Indonesian maid Satinah escapes beheading in Saudi Arabia after diyat payment


CONVICTED Indonesian migrant worker Satinah, facing beheading for murder in Saudi Arabia, was finally freed from the death penalty after the Indonesian government and the victims family agreed upon a 7 million Riyal diyat payment.

“We assure that Satinah can be freed from the beheading punishment because we have transferred another two million Riyal to the victims family. They can disburse the money as of Sunday because banks are closed in Saudi Arabia on Friday and Saturday,” Gatot Abdullah Mansyur of the National Agency for Placement and Protection of Indonesian Workers Overseas (BNP2TKI) stated in Jakarta on Thursday.

Earlier the government and the victims family agreed to a payment in diyat (blood compensation money) of 7 million Riyal, of which five million was paid in cash and the remaining two million Riyal was to be paid in installments.

satinah1Satinah, 40, who hails from Semarang, Central Java, was found guilty by the Saudi Arabian court of killing her employer 70-year old Nura al-Gharib in the Gaseem area in early 2009 and of stealing her employers money amounting to 37.9 thousand Riyals.

She was initially punished with absolute death penalty. But the appellate court reduced her sentence to the Qishash death penalty, a death punishment that could be avoided by paying diyat or blood compensation money with amounts decided by the victims family.

Satinah has been jailed since 2009 and was scheduled to be executed on April 3, unless the requested diyat of 7.5 million Riyal, which is equal to about Rp21 billion, is paid.

Gatot Abdullah Mansyur clarified that the diyat was not paid in installments but in cash, where two million Riyals have been transferred from Indonesia to the victims family and five million others have been handed over through the Indonesian Embassy in Riyadh.

Of the 7 million Riyals, three million has been paid by the government of Indonesia and the other four million by donors who sympathized with Satinah.

According to Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Djoko Suyanto, the government will only provide three million riyals, while the other four million riyals was to be collected through donations from business people and other citizens of Indonesia.

Satinahs fate has triggered the governments and public concerns and solidarity movement. Indonesian rock artist Melanie Subono, for instance, had appealed to the public to donate money for the diyat payment. The Indonesian government itself had set aside 3 million Riyals to help pay for the compensation money.

Non-governmental organization Migrant Care positively welcomed the settlement deal between Indonesian government and the victims family on the compensation to free Satinah.

“This is what we have been fighting for in the past few months. This is what we expect from the government, to help pay the compensation money (diyat) to the family of the victim and free Satinah from death penalty,” Executive Director of Migrant Care Anis Hidayah stated here on Thursday.

satinahCommission for Missing People and Victims of Violence (Kontras) pointed out that Satinah is basically a victim of social injustices because she received inadequate protection. “Satinah is a victim of injustices. We are convinced that such a death penalty is a form of injustice towards vulnerable groups of people like Indonesian migrant workers,” Coordinator of the Working Body of Kontras Haris Azhar declared at a press statement on Thursday.

He explained that Satinah and other Indonesian migrant workers were placed in a very vulnerable working area without proper protection. They work under a constant threat of domestic violence without proper legal protection and are far from their families.

“It happens very often that violations against workers take place often but no adequate information is available on the violence. On the other hand, it is very easy for the Indonesian migrant workers to be punished when they commit violence without proper legal assistance. The Indonesian migrant workers are always in a weak position both when they become the victims and the accused of violence,” Haris stressed.

In the meantime, international law professor of the University of Indonesia (UI) Hikmahanto Juwana criticized the government for paying diyat for the victim, saying that it placed a bad precedent for the forthcoming government.

The future government will thereby face dilemmatic situationsin the face of any death penalty for Indonesian migrant workers. “It must be understood that diyat is money that must be paid by a convict or his/her family and not the government,” emphasized Professor Hikmahanto Yuwana.

“The condition is certainly not good. The government could, in the future, be squeezed. The government from any country, whose citizen is involved in a murder in Saudi Arabia, can also be affected. They could also be squeezed,” he asserted, adding that if they did not meet the demand like Indonesia did, their public could protest.

Professor Hikmahanto further explained that it would be unfair to the people of Indonesia if public money was used to pay for the diyat. If later, the total diyat becomes larger, and each time, the government is forced to meet it, that could threaten citizens welfare, he protested.

“One must remember that more than 30 people are currently facing execution. If all their victims demand large diyat, then that could threaten our national budget,” he pointed out.

Thats why Himahanto considered that the payment of the diyat was a bad precedent for the forthcoming government. No matter who will lead the country, it will be face a dilemmatic position.

“If the future government rejects a diyat payment, it will leave an impression that its performance is bad as compared to the performance of the President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono government,” he noted.

Hikmahanto is of the view that the amount of diyat paid to free Satinah was illogical and was allegedly a result of the involvement of the mafia. “Should the following government pay a diyat, how much should it pay and how much should the victims family ask for, if the payment for Satinah’s diyat has reached four times the amount of diyat paid for Darsems compensation in 2011?” Hikmahanto questioned.

He suspected that the government actually knew about the mafia involvement in the case as revealed by Coordinating Minister for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Djoko Suyanto.

“But the government chooses to ignore this because it is willing to save the life of Satinah. The question is whether it is really about saving life of Satinah? Or are there other reasons in the current year of politics when a legislative election is scheduled? Is this effort made to increase the electability of the ruling party? All answers lie with the decision makers,” he declared. — Editor: Heru

Fri, April 4 2014